UK arts funding "scandalously unequal"

Gareth Harris, 08.07.2014
Organisations outside London "relatively starved" of sponsorship, says MA president
David Anderson, president of the Museums Association (MA) and director general of Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, has highlighted the gulf between private funding for culture in London and the rest of the UK, saying that institutions outside the capital have been “relatively starved” of sponsorship.

“Funding of the arts in the United Kingdom, employment in the arts, public access to and participation in the arts, and control of the arts are scandalously unequal,” he said.

“Research by Arts and Business in 2012 revealed that approximately 70% of funding in the whole of the UK for the arts by private donors, corporations, trusts and foundations went to London institutions,” he added.

In an interview with BBC Radio Wales, he singled out three London boroughs — Westminster, Southwark, and Kensington and Chelsea — which receive, he said, a “billion pounds of investment in the arts each year”.

This “disproportionate amount” includes half a billion pounds in public funding, with the remainder coming from private and corporate sources (as well as the lotteries).

“It’s in large part a historical problem, and also one of UK cultural policy,” Anderson said. “The real issue is what happens to the money that goes beyond the government grants,” he added.

Anderson’s comments prompted debate in the sector about the challenges in finding sponsors for regional museums.

“London organisations receive a disproportionate amount of funding, and larger museums do much better than small museums,” said Rachael Rogers, president of the Federation of Museums and Galleries of Wales.

“However, small, local museums cannot attract the sort of publicity required by large scale donors, which means opportunities to change the situation are inevitably limited.”

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said: "We recognise that we in Wales, along with the rest of the UK outside London, are disadvantaged in terms of attracting private giving to the arts.

"We are trying to tackle this by providing core funding to Arts and Business Cymru, which does excellent work to promote links and work of mutual benefit between the arts and business in Wales, including sponsorship, in-kind support, and skills training.

"We would welcome a conversation across the UK about how to ensure that more private funding does come to institutions outside London."

The issue of the disparity in arts funding between London and the regions of England was highlighted last October in the report Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital.

Arts Council England, meanwhile, revealed the 670 arts organisations in its national portfolio last week, saying that there is an overall shift in spending: in 2008, 51% of investment was directed to London with 49% funding allocated outside the capital. In 2015/16, this switches to 47% in London and 53% outside.


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09.07.2014, 11:40
I think a wholesale rethink around how we fund museums and other publicly funded cultural organisations is long overdue. It is a shame this did not really happen when the Arts Council took over from the MLA. Some outside the box thinking is required-such as more integration with learning providers. Museums cannot exist on bits and bobs all the time.